There are some visionaries out there who think that the NBA needs drastic changes to the game itself in order to improve what’s already a fairly compelling product.
While plenty would dispute whether adding a four-point line or eliminating charging fouls would actually improve things over time, there are a couple of areas where it’s easy to find almost unanimous agreement that some change is warranted.
The grueling schedule and the Draft Lottery system are two of the most obvious issues that need addressing, and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has ideas for fixing the existing problems.
Alexander called for changes as extreme as requiring teams to win a certain number of games to be eligible for the top three picks of the draft to avoid systematic tanking to the more subtle change of extending the season to spread out the 82 games and reduce the number of back-to-backs.
“I think the league has too many games that are considered exhibition games where people don’t show up with their teams and also, people trying to lose so badly the game isn’t a real game,” Alexander said. “It hurts me every time I see it because it damages the league. There should be some disincentive to lose. Right now, we have an incentive to lose. I think it should be switched.
“My solution is a team has to win a certain number of games in a year in order to get in the top three picks. Pick a number so you have to field a competitive team. I think it’s horrible. It ticks me off that people are trying to win by losing.”
The league is indeed concerned about the perception of teams tanking, and has been publicly since at least last February, when Adam Silver was fairly outspoken about being open to making changes to the Draft Lottery system so that losing isn’t so overtly incentivized.
The league attempted to revamp the lottery this season, but couldn’t get the required number of votes from ownership to pass the particular proposal that was brought to the table.
Setting a threshold for wins a team must have to qualify for a top-three pick is an interesting idea, and one that would certainly require teams to maintain a minimum level of talent on the roster in order to remain competitive on a nightly basis.
The problem becomes, where do you set that number? Eight teams finished the regular season last year winning less than 30 games, and five of them finished having exactly 25 wins or less.
Alexander also discussed his issues with the scheduling:
“We’re going to hopefully lengthen the schedule which will reduce back-to-backs,” Alexander said. “The league should have a computer program which equalizes back-to-backs. And when you have a back-to-back, you shouldn’t have to go that far, like when we play Dallas or San Antonio back-to-back.”
Alexander said that the early-morning arrivals – the Rockets landed after 4 a.m. on morning of a game after playing in Denver – “is not good for the sport. You’re not going to get the best.”
He said he is pushing to start the season earlier by reducing the length of the preseason and extending the season into the summer and is “100 percent” supportive of extended the season into July, a barrier the NBA has been loath to cross.
Cutting the preseason in half seems to be the most logical way to reduce some back-to-backs, and the idea of playing the ones that are necessary more regionally would similarly cut down on wear and tear for the players.
That part may be a bit more complicated, however, given the way the availabilities of the arenas can vary from one city to the next over the course of the season.
The ideas Alexander floats seem more than reasonable. But whether they come about in these specific incarnations or they don’t, what’s important here is that someone who actually is in a position to enact some real change in these areas seems to be interested in doing so.